I don't think I really knew what I was getting into. I was entering into a group of girls raised in the very culture that intimidated and felt foreign to me in my own teen years. There have been times when joining them in their parties felt like being given a second chance - I can join in and dance this time around instead of being a wallflower. Other times I've wondered if I'll ever be able to relate to them. It took a long time to really feel at ease with them.
It's a group of girls who started out in grade school together, but now they are all in different high schools. With that distance and growing up, they know each other less now than they did when they started. Some are less interested in all things religious. Over the years several girls have moved away or just drifted. Last year I wasn't even sure we'd still have a group this year. Hardly any of them come to the youth program at church anymore, but when we gather in their homes in our small group mid-week they still come, because they trust us.
I've seen dramatic things alongside the usual issues with grades, boys, prom dates, and parents.
I've kept going because I feel like I'm in a fight for their souls. They are being pulled on by the appearance and success-oriented culture of North Dallas. The teenage years with all their angst and impulsive tendencies put forward the possibilities of disastrous choices with drugs, guys, and self-abuse when they feel depressed. A middle-class to upper class life characterized by cultural Christianity filled with platitudes and little real depth or truth is the easy future most people expect of them. They ARE at-risk, perhaps just as much as the refugees I work with, just in a very different way.
So I do what I do to fight for something different. I want them to have a place they can be honest, to have people they know who have chosen a different path and who value different things. I want them to know they are loved and valued and that we enjoy being with them. Even if they don't remember a thing we've studied together, if they know they'll always have us two older women that love them to come and talk to to process life and point them to God, we will have succeeded.
After three years of wondering if we were actually having any effect, I'm amazed by what I'm seeing this year. I love them, and we are comfortable together and have FUN.Conversations are real and amazing and they are growing up. Recently one girl stopped another in middle of a story and asked if she could say something. She gave her friend a strong piece of advice, and the other girl listened and responded with, "Thank you SO much, really. Thank you for saying that."
You know how hard we've worked to try to get them to really speak into each other's lives and push each other to make good choices? To see it happen without us guiding it was awesome.
I've seen two girls take bold stands against injustice, and to do so they really had to go against the flow. *fist pump for their awesomeness*. After years of talking about Scripture and trying to encourage them away from assumptions and into reading for themselves and owning their faith, I think right now they really care and are choosing this of their own accord.
Yeah, they are still teenagers, and yeah, all the things most people find awkward about teenagers are still there. I don't care. I think they're great. I just know that I have been commanded to "go and make disciples" and that discipleship is needed in their corner of wealthy Dallas.